Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy Z Fold 4 aims to help the company to continue its dominance in the popular but still-growing foldable smartphone segment.

While the Fold is more hyped between the two phones released by the South Korean company on August 10, the Galaxy Flip 4 has definitely hogged the spotlight. Its second iteration accounted for 51 per cent of all sales in the first quarter of 2022, Digital Supply Chain said.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: upgraded camera stands out in minor retooling

That is understandable, given the Fold’s obviously large form factor and, most importantly, price point. However, the Fold can do more, which is the message Samsung is trying to get across.

The National takes a look at the device to see if more users could be swayed into joining the bandwagon.

Fold 4 design virtually unchanged

In terms of design, nothing has virtually changed in the Fold 4, but its width and height are slightly smaller than the Fold 3, with bezels also trimmed down. The hinge is also now smaller and tougher, but is able to withstand about 200,000 folds/unfolds “before failing”, Samsung says. That equates to about five years at 100 folds a day.

The outer sides have been upgraded to Corning Gorilla Victus+, considered the strongest glass in the market, with plastic protection inside, all bound together by an aluminium frame.

Its durability remains at IPX8, meaning it can withstand being submerged in water up to 1.5 metres for up to 30 minutes. As usual, it is not recommended for the pool and the beach, and it is also not dust-proof.

The main screen and cover display retain their 7.6-inch and 6.2-inch sizes, respectively, with a refresh rate of up to 120Hz, making content flow smoother. Aside from Samsung saying that the Fold 4 has been reinforced, it is a token design upgrade.

Is the Fold too big to hold?

This has been one of the sticking points of the Fold series — the question of whether it is too big to handle.

For starters, it is already thick when it is folded — like two smartphones stacked on top of each other — but its slimmer profile, which is comfortable in your hand, and given that it is practically the same height as the highest-end smartphones in the market, cancels that out.

Using it unfolded, however, most certainly requires two-hand usage. Sure, you can hold and still operate it with one hand, but that reduces your ability to navigate the device in half, so to speak, since the thumb on your hand holding it would reach only half of the screen.

Certain functions will be severely handicapped: try composing an email or message with only half of the keyboard within your reach. You can also think of certain situations, such as standing on the Metro or walking while carrying a bag in one hand. The only solution to maximising one-handed operation is using it folded.

Meanwhile, the keyboard, we feel, is still too big as it takes almost half of the screen when it is active. There is definitely more room to shrink it down a little bit further so more content can be shown.

The performance

The Fold 4 runs on the new Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, and we did not encounter any lags or crashes while using the device.

Flex mode also makes a return: when you partially fold the Fold 4, it splits the screen, with the top showing app content, while the lower part turns into a control panel, letting you use it without having to hold it.

But, as we pointed out in the Flip 4 review, this mode has seemingly redundant controls. Either use it for taking hands-free selfies, or turn it into a mini-computer, reminiscent of the Nokia 9000 Communicator.

The smartphone also supports the S Pen. Samsung first integrated stylus support in last year’s Fold 3, but this will come at an extra cost, since you need to buy it separately. Furthermore, since there is obviously no slot for the S Pen nor does it magnetically attach to the device, you will need the specific cover case for the Fold 4 so you can slot in the S Pen.

However, only the S Pen Pro and S Pen Fold edition work with the Folds, and the function works with only the main inner screen. Samsung also warns any other styluses may damage the display.

Camera gets a significant upgrade

The biggest upgrade in the Fold 4 lies within its triple-lens camera system: its main sensor is now significantly up at 50MP, from the Fold 3’s 12MP, and can gather 65 per cent more light. It is now also capable of 3x optical zoom, compared with the previous 2x, plus a maximum 30x Space Zoom. But remember, as always, to keep a steady hand.

This means it is now on par with the Galaxy S22 line-up. In well-lit situations, colours are bright and rich, with clear details. At night, it also retains clarity — albeit with smudges — and one particular thing we like about it is how it processes lights, preventing scattered results and reflection.

In either situation, there tends to be a little overexposure. Check out some sample images we took from the Fold 4:

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: upgraded camera stands out in minor retooling

A view of the Dubai Fountain taken using the new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4. All photos: Alvin R Cabral / The National

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: upgraded camera stands out in minor retooling

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 has a 50 megapixel main sensor, which helps process clear images.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: upgraded camera stands out in minor retooling

The entrance of Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo at The Dubai Mall, photographed with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: upgraded camera stands out in minor retooling

Residents and visitors at Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo at The Dubai Mall.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: upgraded camera stands out in minor retooling

A macro shot taken with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: upgraded camera stands out in minor retooling

A view of the Burj Khalifa from outside The Dubai Mall, captured on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: upgraded camera stands out in minor retooling

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 is able to process lights in dark conditions without much noise or reflection.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: upgraded camera stands out in minor retooling

Lights against a dark background in this photo of The Palace Downtown hotel in Dubai, taken with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: upgraded camera stands out in minor retooling

The courtyard and entrance to the Palace Downtown hotel.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: upgraded camera stands out in minor retooling

An ultra-wide angle shot of the previous image, showing the courtyard and entrance to the Palace Downtown hotel.

There are a total of five cameras as there are two selfie snappers, one on the front and the other on the inner display. The latter is an under-display camera, which was first implemented in Fold 3 and meshes with the screen so it will not interfere with the overall view.

Both cameras deliver decent shots, although the inner one tends to be noisier, especially when lighting conditions worsen. The original Fold had six cameras, as the inner display had a dual-lens system (the Fold 2 used a punch-hole); this could be a premise for a return to that set-up to improve quality, especially now that under-display technology is not a new thing any more. Costs, however, are a big question should this be introduced.

One last thing to note about the camera: using the main snapper while the device is unfolded or otherwise will still give you the same view and resulting image size, so you do not have to worry about having to use it while it is unfolded. But if you decide to do so, there is an added convenience of being able to move the shutter button anywhere on the screen so you can easily reach it (presumably with, again, your thumb).

The battery

The Fold 4’s battery stays at 4400mAh, with Samsung promising “all-day” performance.

The device supports fast charging at 25W, which Samsung estimates will power it up at 50 per cent in 30 minutes. However, during our run, it reached only 36 per cent in half an hour and took 46 minutes to hit 50 per cent. Please note that we test-charge devices while they are switched off.

Wireless charging is expectedly slower, with the battery crawling up only 4 per cent in 15 minutes. The device also supports reverse wireless charging.

The better news is that battery life is generally tough. A good mix of usage was enough to end our day with less than a third of battery still in stock and keep it going until early the following day. In our one-hour YouTube-at-full-brightness test, the Fold 4 lost 8 per cent — excellent, all factors considered, but just a tad short of the Fold 3’s 7 per cent.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: upgraded camera stands out in minor retooling

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Fold 4 during a Dubai event to introduce the next generation of the company’s foldable smartphones. All photos: Victor Besa / The National

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: upgraded camera stands out in minor retooling

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4’s main inner screen remains at 7.6 inches, but is wider.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: upgraded camera stands out in minor retooling

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 starts at Dh6,849 ($1,864). Its 1TB version is exclusive to Samsung’s website.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: upgraded camera stands out in minor retooling

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4, despite its name, is the third Flip device. Samsung skipped a ‘2’ last year to align the Galaxy Z’s naming conventions.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: upgraded camera stands out in minor retooling

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 has an improved outer display that lets users make calls and check notifications.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: upgraded camera stands out in minor retooling

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, which is aimed at taking on the Apple Watch.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: upgraded camera stands out in minor retooling

The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2, which have improved sound quality and active noise cancellation.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 review: upgraded camera stands out in minor retooling

Pre-orders for Samsung’s new Galaxy Z devices are now live.

The verdict

Much like the Flip 4, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 does not offer major upgrades, save for the increase in the camera configuration. Further upgrades to devices will mean higher costs; with the maxed-out version of the Fold 4 at more than Dh8,100 ($2,206), Samsung has to figure out ways to boost specifications and features without going overboard on pricing.

On the lower end of its price range, however, the device is within striking distance of some of the highest-end smartphones, and this is where the Fold’s additional functionalities come into play; you can make an argument that for the same price — or a little more — you can get to enjoy a (mini) tablet experience.

It is a delicate balancing act. We would like to believe that this era of Samsung’s foldables has peaked — which makes us look forward to a major overhaul, which should happen next year.

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